IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Agency Relationships in Family Firms: Theory and Evidence


  • William S. Schulze

    () (Case Western Reserve University, Weatherhead School of Management, 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44106-7235)

  • Michael H. Lubatkin

    () (University of Connecticut, Box U-41 Mgmt., 368 Fairfield Road, Storrs, Connecticut 06269)

  • Richard N. Dino

    () (University of Connecticut, 368 Fairfield Road—U-41FB, Storrs, Connecticut 06269-2041)

  • Ann K. Buchholtz

    () (The University of Georgia, Terry College of Business, Department of Management, Athens, Georgia 30602-6275)


Does owner management necessarily eliminate the agency costs of ownership? Drawing on agency literature and on the economic theory of the household, we argue that private ownership and owner management expose privately held, owner-managed firms to agency threats ignored by Jensen’s and Meckling’s (1976) agency model. Private ownership and owner management not only reduce the effectiveness of external control mechanisms, they also expose firms to a “self-control” problem created by incentives that cause owners to take actions which “harm themselves as well as those around them” (Jensen 1994, p. 43). Thus, shareholders have incentive to invest resources in curbing both managerial and owner opportunism. We extend this thesis to the domain of the family firm. After developing hypotheses which describe how family dynamics and, specifically, altruism, exacerbate agency problems experienced by these privately held, owner-managed firms, we use data obtained from a large-scale survey of family businesses to field test our hypotheses and find evidence which suggests support for our proposed theory. Finally, we discuss the implications of our theory for research on family and other types of privately held, owner-managed firms.

Suggested Citation

  • William S. Schulze & Michael H. Lubatkin & Richard N. Dino & Ann K. Buchholtz, 2001. "Agency Relationships in Family Firms: Theory and Evidence," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 12(2), pages 99-116, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ororsc:v:12:y:2001:i:2:p:99-116

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:inm:ororsc:v:12:y:2001:i:2:p:99-116. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mirko Janc). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.